Pesto pasta salad with sundried tomatoes is the ultimate pasta salad recipe! Perfect for lunch or dinner this quick and easy dish is packed with flavor and uses simple ingredients to create the perfect meal. Made with a dairy free cashew pesto sauce, this recipe is vegan, gluten free, dairy free and ready in under 20 minutes.
Why you will love this recipe:
- Pesto pasta is always a great idea! Turning it into a veggie packed pasta salad with added sun dried tomatoes takes it to the next level! This recipe is packed with flavor and you are not going to believe the added depth of flavor you get from the sun dried tomatoes.
- Great for meal prep! This recipe is great to eat right away and is equally as good the next day! Make a large batch and add your favorite protein for a healthy filling meal!
- Since there is no dairy to worry about, this pesto pasta salad with sun dried tomatoes is great for cookouts, summer barbecues, potlucks or family gatherings! To make the recipe even easier to pull together for a crowd, you can buy pesto pre-made or make a large batch ahead of time!
- Arugula/spinach mixture
- Olive oil
- Garlic Powder
Pesto Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes:
- Pasta (I love lentil or chickpea based pastas)
- Sun dried tomatoes (packed in oil or reconstituted)
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Arugula/spinach mix
To make the pesto, combine all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Often I like to break down the basil with the olive oil, lemon juice and spices first. Then add the cashews and blend until almost smooth. Add the arugula/spinach mixture last to ensure everything gets a chance to break down properly.
To make the pasta salad:
Cook the pasta according to the package directions.
Drain the pasta and run cold water over it until it’s cool.
Cut the cherry/grape tomatoes in half.
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Add all the ingredients to a very large bowl and mix with tongs until fully combined.
Serve immediately or store in the fridge for up to 4 days.
Tips on making dairy free pesto
To get the same creamy texture that you normally get from adding parmesan and pine nuts (which can be pricey), I like to use raw cashews (or walnuts) in my dairy free pesto recipes. They add great texture and a creamy consistency that really takes the pesto to the next level.
I also like to incorporate more greens into all of my pesto recipes. Typically I add arugula or spinach but this time I grabbed a mix of the two greens. You can also use kale, however I find that kale doesn’t fall into the background as easily as these greens.
What shape of pasta to use:
Pasta salad is often made with penne pasta, bowtie pasta, fusilli or even elbow pasta! Since this pasta salad is made with pesto, I like to choose tubed pasta like penne or elbow macaroni to really grab the sauce.
What are good gluten free pastas:
I love to use a higher protein and higher fiber pasta to make this pasta salad more filling. Some of my favorites are the red lentil pasta from Trader joes, chickpea pasta from Banza or lentil pasta from Tolerant pasta!
If you want to use a gluten free pasta, my favorites are Brown Rice Pasta from Trader Joe’s or Jovial brand gluten free pasta (comes in lots of fun shapes).
How to quickly cool pasta after cooking:
To make this pasta salad in under 20 minutes, it’s important that you are able to quickly cool down the pasta. The best way to do this is to drain the water from cooking, keep the pasta in the colander and run cold water over the pasta until it’s cooled off (this typically takes a minute or so).
Make ahead tips:
Pesto tends to start to oxidize and brown after 3-4 days of making. To ensure that you have the best color on your pasta salad, the pesto can be made up to 24 hours in advance.
You can also cut the grape/cherry tomatoes in half up to 24 hours in advance as well.
You can cook the pasta ahead of time too, however, it’s important that you cover the pasta with a light drizzle of oil so it doesn’t start to clump and stick together. For best results, prep everything else ahead of time and combine the pasta and pesto immediately after the pasta cools.
Other additions to this pasta salad:
I love to use the rest of the spinach/arugula leftover from making the pesto, but if you don’t like leafy greens in your pasta salad, you can omit them. Other great additions to your pesto pasta salad are:
- Roasted red peppers
- Chopped cooked asparagus or zucchini
- Chopped red onion
- Artichoke hearts
- Mozzarella or parmesan cheese (not vegan)
- Pine nuts, cashews, or hemp hearts.
How to serve this pasta salad
You can serve this pesto pasta salad with sundried tomatoes as a side dish or add your favorite protein for a light summery main dish!
Some of my favorite proteins to add include:
- Chickpeas or lentils (vegan)
- Balsamic Tofu
- Shredded Chicken
- Balsamic Chicken (crockpot)
- 10 Minute Italian Chicken Bites
- Grilled Shrimp
- Air Fryer Salmon
How to make this recipe lower in carbs or Whole30 friendly?
This pasta salad is also great using spaghetti squash or zucchini pasta. You can make zucchini into elbow macaroni shapes by slicing the zucchini down the center half way and then spiralizing the zucchini. This will make little C-shaped pasta.
How to rehydrate sun dried tomatoes
If you cannot find sun dried tomatoes in olive oil (Trader Joe’s, Costco and most grocery stores have this in the Italian food aisles, typically by the pasta sauce or jarred pesto). However if all you have on hand is dried sun dried tomatoes, you can rehydrate them in hot water for about 30 minutes before adding them to the pasta salad.
Store this pesto pasta salad with sundried tomatoes in the fridge for up to 4 days. It may need a pinch of salt the next day, as the pasta will really absorb the pesto overnight.
This pesto pasta salad will not freeze well. You can freeze pesto for up to 3 months and defrost it to use in this salad later in the year though.
If you love this recipe you should try:
- Tahini Pesto Sauce
- Italian Zucchini Pasta Salad
- Quinoa Italian Salad
- Greek Spaghetti Squash Salad
- Artichoke Pesto Pasta
- Lemon Tahini Pasta
Pesto Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomatoes
Pesto Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes
- 12 oz red lentil pasta, cooked
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1-2 cups spinach arugula mix
- 3 tbsp sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
- cashew pesto from above
- Combine the basil, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and garlic powder in a food processor until broken down.
- Add cashews and process on high about 1 minute.
- Add the spinach/arugula mixture and process on high until smooth. If needed, add 1-2 tbsp. of water to help the mixture come together. Scrape down the sides as needed.
Pesto Pasta Salad with Sundried Tomatoes
- Cook and cool the pasta. The pasta takes 6 minutes to cook and about 1-2 minutes to cool under cold water.
- In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and stir well, I like to use tongs.
- Hemp hearts
- Sunflower seeds
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